Davis Love III chipped in on the final hole to force a playoff, then hit the flagstick with his approach on the fourth extra hole to defeat Woody Austin and win his fifth Heritage title yesterday in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
If anyone needed proof of Love's mastery over Harbour Town Golf Links, they got it here.
Trailing Austin by a stroke on the final hole, Love rolled in a wedge from 66 feet away to tie for the lead at 13-under-par 271. Then, after watching Austin miss makable putts for the victory on the second and third extra holes, Love struck a 6-iron that bounced off the pin and settled about three feet away.
Love lined up the putt, took one practice swing and dropped it in, to the blares of boat horns in Callibogue Sound.
"There were a lot of bad shots out there," said Love, who earned his 17th PGA Tour victory and third this year. "It was a lot like my win at Pebble, I gutted it out."
Austin had his chances to win. He missed a six-foot putt on the second playoff hole and a three-footer on the third extra hole, both which would have given him the title. But he had no regrets about this week.
"It's been a long time since I felt I was hitting it this good," he said. "It's fun to be back in the game."
Love, who won the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the Players Championship, joins Tiger Woods and Masters winner Mike Weir as three-time champions on tour this season.
And Love has no equal at Harbour Town. He was already the all-time champion with victories in 1987, 1991, 1992 and 1998, and the tournament's leading money-winner, with better than $1.3 million. Nine of his last 12 rounds here have been in the sixties.
This week, though, Love was content to remain just behind the leaders. He began the round three shots behind Stewart Cink and steadily moved up as others fell away, particularly Ernie Els, who led by two shots after 15 holes before a double bogey on 16.
* CHAMPIONS TOUR: Bob Gilder won the Emerald Coast Classic with a tournament record 17-under 193, finishing four strokes ahead of three others in Milton, Fla.
Gilder, who shared the second-round lead with Tom Watson, shot a 7-under 63 in the final round. His final score topped the record of 197, set by Gil Morgan and Isao Aoki in 1997.